Going outside helps me journey inside my mind and soul. The stillness of nature allows me to tune in and listen to the thoughts and feelings that are buried under the chaos of everyday life. Several months ago I had the blessing to spend a few quiet moments in a nature reserve with majestic redwood trees. I expected to be overcome with awe while witnessing these tremendous trees, but was caught off guard by what the trees brought out in me.
The gigantic redwood trees invited me in, protected me and made me feel small and humble. In particular, I was called to the large cavities that exist at the core of some of these ancient trees. I climbed inside one tree’s cavernous hole and noticed the temperature drop slightly. The silence inside the hole was noticeable since the wooden trunk surrounding me prevented echoes from journeying into the forest. I felt the bark inside the tree, some parts smooth and some parts rough,different layers from different generations of the tree’s lengthy life. I noticed the parts of the tree that had been scorched by fire into a deeper shade of brown than the rest of the tree.
“She is a tree of life for those who grasp her…” (Proverbs 3:18)
I sat within the stillness of that tree, grasping the wisdom of life it had to offer. I identified strongly with this tree in all of her majesty and strength, in all of her presence, and all that she lacked. Deeply rooted, yet with a gaping hole at her core. I sat in the core of the tree and felt my own empty core, the space that remained after an excruciatingly long and drawn out miscarriage. A miscarriage that came after an intense year of appointments, injections, and procedures. A miscarriage of our last existing frozen embryo. A miscarriage process that began the day we found out we would soon be sheltering in place due to the pandemic raging around the globe.
I am not a stranger to grief, pain, and trauma. This was not the first time the fires of the universe scorched me at my core. And yet as time passed, this particular loss expanded, and the space that was supposed to nurture the newest member of our family instead became a cavernous hole that grew inside me. The lack was immensely present and I questioned what to do with the Empty Space. While inside this tree, I wondered how it continued to grow even while its core was empty.
After spending some time within the Empty Space, I crept out of the redwood tree and noticed a sign that read, “Due to their remarkable fire resistance, most redwoods are able to survive fires…When a fire does reach the heartwood (core) of the tree, it creates a cavity….the tree adapts to its hollowed trunk by strengthening its base on either side of the cavity. This additional growth is referred to as a buttress and provides the tree with additional stability.”
This sign reminded me that comfort isn’t about filling the emptiness. Comfort is allowing myself the space to feel the lack at my core and to integrate that loss into my identity as time goes on. But the emptiness doesn’t go away. I just keep growing.
“Hamakom yenachem etchem” (May the Space comfort you)…
I turned to the redwood tree for one last time. I took in her beauty and her pain. I admired that even with her scars, she continues to grow, and becomes stronger. I thanked her for comforting me. For providing a Space for me to be present in my own emptiness. For reminding me that strength, beauty, and rootedness can all coexist with emptiness.